Category : The National Deficit

(USA Today) Paul Davidson–Recent tax and spending legislation raises painful questions about US Financial Health

“You have so little room to respond during the next crisis,” MacGuineas says.

In reality, though, it’s unlikely bond investors will hesitate to finance additional U.S. spending to combat another downturn, Ashworth says. After all, he says, even if U.S. debt-to-GDP approaches 100 percent, that’s still well below 130-percent-plus ratios in countries such as Italy and Japan.

Chris Edwards, senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, notes that while the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio is lower, its economy, and debt level, are much larger. He calls the deficit buildup “disastrous.”

Capital Economics’ Neil Shearing is more worried about political resistance in Congress to a massive stimulus if the nation’s debt burden hits nosebleed levels.

Zandi isn’t concerned. “If we get into a mess, policymakers will ignore the deficit and do what they need to do,” he says.

Yet MacGuineas says the patience of bondholders and lawmakers eventually will run thin.

“We don’t know when that is, and we don’t want to try to find out.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(PS) Martin Feldstein–America’s Exploding Budget Deficit

The federal government’s debt has risen from less than 40% of GDP a decade ago to 78% now, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts that the ratio will rise to 96% in 2028. Because foreign investors hold the majority of US government debt, this projection implies that they will absorb more than $6 trillion in US bonds during the next ten years. Long-term interest rates on US debt will have to rise substantially to induce domestic and foreign investors alike to hold this very large increase.

Why is this happening? Had last year’s tax legislation not been enacted, the 2028 debt ratio would still reach 93% of GDP, according to the CBO. So the cause of the exploding debt lies elsewhere.

The primary drivers of the deficit increase over the next decade are the higher cost of benefits for middle-class older individuals. More specifically, spending on Social Security retirement benefits is predicted to rise from 4.9% of GDP to 6%. Government spending on health care for the aged in the Medicare program – which, like Social Security, is not means tested – will rise from 3.5% of GDP to 5.1%. So these two programs will raise the annual deficit by 2.7% of GDP.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Medicare, Politics in General, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Paul Volcker+ Peter Peterson–Ignoring the Debt Problem

Yes, this country can handle the nearly $600 billion federal deficit estimated for 2016. But the deficit has grown sharply this year, and will keep the national debt at about 75 percent of the gross domestic product, a ratio not seen since 1950, after the budget ballooned during World War II.

Long-term, that continued growth, driven by our tax and spending policies, will create the most significant fiscal challenge facing our country. The widely respected Congressional Budget Office has estimated that by midcentury our debt will rise to 140 percent of G.D.P., far above that in any previous era, even in times of war.

Unfortunately, despite a brief discussion during the final presidential debate, neither candidate has put forward a convincing plan to restrain the growth of the national debt in the decades to come.

Read it all. For a very important background on this, please see this 2011 post and the comments thereon, in which Boston University’s Laurence J. Kotlikoff makes clear that the true figure of our actual indebtedness is in excess of 200 Trillion dollars–KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Medicare, Politics in General, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

Peter Peterson Foundation–Have the Debt and Deficits Gotten Better?

But much more important is the steep upward trajectory of our long-term debt ”“ which remains as dangerous as ever. In its latest long-term outlook, released in June, CBO projected that the federal debt will climb to 141 percent of GDP by 2046 ”“ by far the highest level on record.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Medicare, Politics in General, Psychology, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(IBD) Social Security To Go Bust By 2030: CBO

The $2.8 trillion Social Security Trust Fund is on track to be totally spent by 2030, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday.

That’s one year earlier than projected in 2013 and a decade earlier than the CBO estimated as recently as 2011.

The CBO delivered the warning in a gloomy long-term budget outlook that shows federal debt reaching 106% of GDP in 25 years, up from 74% now.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

After the ACA, Worries about Financial problems for hospitals treating large #s of Medicaid Patients

Previous studies suggest that many people will use the new coverage to obtain medical care for conditions that went untreated while they were uninsured.

The new health law reduces special payments to hospitals serving large numbers of low-income patients, on the assumption that many of the uninsured will gain coverage through Medicaid.

But hospital executives are unsure that the savings will materialize. Dr. Campbell said the cuts could create serious financial problems for hospitals treating large numbers of Medicaid patients.

Recent research in other states has raised similar questions.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Aging / the Elderly, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Medicaid, Politics in General, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(HMS) $1.9 Billion in Medicare Waste: ”˜Tip of the Iceberg’

In the first large-scale study to directly measure wasteful spending in Medicare, researchers found that Medicare spent $1.9 billion in 2009 for patients to receive any of 26 tests and procedures that have been shown by empirical studies to offer little or no health benefit.

By analyzing Medicare claims data, researchers in the Harvard Medical School Department of Health Care Policy found that at least one in four Medicare recipients received one or more of these services in 2009. What’s more, those 26 services are just a small sample of the hundreds of services that are known to provide little or no medical value to patients in many circumstances.

“We suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said study author J. Michael McWilliams, associate professor of health care policy. The study appears today in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Medicare, Personal Finance, Politics in General, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

Pew Research Reports important report on "the next America"

We start with this reality: Social Security and Medicare are practically sacrosanct. Nearly nine-in-ten Americans say they’re good for the country. That’s an amazing number. But the popularity of these programs really isn’t all that surprising. People love them because they do what they were created to do. They ease many of the frets and dreads of old age ”“ a blessing not just for seniors but for everyone who loves, supports and depends on seniors. Which is to say, everyone.

But the status quo is unsustainable. Some 10,000 Baby Boomers will be going on Social Security and Medicare every single day between now and 2030. By the time everyone in this big pig-in-the-python generation is drawing benefits, we’ll have just two workers per beneficiary ”“ down from three-to-one now, five-to-one in 1960 and more than forty-to-one in 1945, shortly after Social Security first started supporting beneficiaries.

The math of the 20th century simply won’t work in the 21st. Today’s young are paying taxes to support a level of benefits for today’s old that they have no realistic chance of receiving when they become old. And they know it ”“ just 6% of Millennials say they expect to receive full benefits from Social Security when they retire. Fully half believe they’ll get nothing.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Medicaid, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology, Young Adults

(NY Times) Treasury Secretary Sends Warning on Debt Limit

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew warned Congress on Wednesday that the government would most likely exhaust its ability to borrow in late February, setting up yet another fiscal showdown with Republicans, and this time earlier than congressional leaders had anticipated.

In a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner and the other top three congressional leaders, Mr. Lew said a surge of February spending, mainly tax refunds for 2013, would leave the Treasury with little room to maneuver after the official debt limit is reached on Feb. 7.

The letter amounts to an early alarm bell, coming just weeks after Congress passed its first bipartisan budget and comprehensive spending bill in years. Those bills were supposed to serve as a cease-fire in the budget wars that have rattled the country and the economy since Republicans took control of the House in 2011.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Federal Reserve, Globalization, History, House of Representatives, Medicaid, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc), Theology

(NYT) Eduardo Porter–The Great Recession’s True Cost Is Still Being Tallied

More than five years later, there is still no answer to perhaps the most critical question raised by the man-made disaster: How much did it all cost?

In July, three economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Tyler Atkinson, David Luttrell and Harvey Rosenblum, gave it a shot, at least as far as the United States economy goes.

…their examination offers a panoramic view of the variety of ways in which the financial crisis diminished the nation’s standard of living. At a bare minimum the crisis cost nearly $20,000 for each American. Adding in broader impacts on workers’ well-being ”” an admittedly speculative exercise ”” could raise the price tag to as much as $120,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States. With this kind of money we could pay back the federal debt or pay for a top-notch college education for everyone.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Children, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Federal Reserve, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Poverty, Psychology, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(WSJ) Federal Reserve Dials Back Bond Buying, Keeps a Wary Eye on Growth

Although the Fed expects to keep reducing the program “in measured steps” next year, the timing and the course isn’t preset. “Continued progress [in the economy] is by no means certain,” Mr. [Ben] Bernanke said. “The steps that we take will be data-dependent.”

If the Fed proceeds at the pace he set out, it would complete the bond-buying program toward the end of 2014 with holdings of nearly $4.5 trillion in bonds, loans and other assets, nearly six times as large as the Fed’s total holdings when the financial crisis started in 2008.

Still, officials””worried that investors would quake at the thought of less Fed support””went to lengths to demonstrate that they would keep interest rates low for years to come, even after the bond-buying program ends.
Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Federal Reserve, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(Washington Post) Robert Samuelson–The Latest Budget Deal is just more muddling through

But there’s a problem. [Charles] Lindblom’s common-sense insight has a giant exception: crises. Change, forced by outside events, then happens by “leaps and bounds.” The recent financial crisis caused Congress and two presidents to embrace measures (the rescue of big banks, General Motors and Chrysler) that were unthinkable a few months earlier. In the 1960s, civil rights demonstrations pushed Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that, in outlawing most public racial discrimination, wasn’t “incremental.” History offers other examples, including the Civil War, the New Deal and both World Wars. Small changes won’t suffice when big changes are required.

On the budget, muddling through comes with a crucial assumption. It is that continuous deficits won’t provoke a crisis that compels political leaders to take harsh steps that they would otherwise not take. This optimism may be justified. For decades, “experts” have warned of the dire consequences of unchecked deficits. Yet no great crisis has occurred. But this conviction also could be complacency. Government debt is in territory that, except for wartime debt, is unprecedented. We don’t know the consequences. Someday, we may no longer have the luxury of muddling through.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology, Young Adults

(Washington Post) House, Senate negotiators reach budget deal

House and Senate negotiators have reached agreement on an $85 billion package to fund the government past Jan. 15, avoid another federal shutdown and end the cycle of budget crises that have dominated Washington for much of the past three years.

The deal did not include a key priority of House Democrats who wanted an extension of long-term benefits for the unemployed. But Democrats said they would continue to press Republicans on the issue in hopes of preventing more than 1 million people from losing their unemployment checks at the end of the month.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Politics in General, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(Wash Post Op-ed) Robert Samuelson–We need to stop coddling the elderly

No one wants to be against Grandma, who ”” as portrayed in the media ”” is kindly, often suffering from some condition, usually financially precarious and somehow needy. But projecting this sympathetic portrait onto the entire 65-plus population is an exercise in make-believe and, frequently, political propaganda. The St. Louis Fed study refutes the stereotype. Examining different age groups, it found that since the financial crisis, incomes have risen for the elderly while they’ve dropped for the young and middle-aged.

The numbers are instructive. From 2007, the year before the financial crisis, to 2010, median income for the families under 40 dropped 12.4 percent to $39,644. For the middle-aged from 40 to 61, the comparable decline was 11.9 percent to $56,924. Meanwhile, those aged 62 to 69 gained 12.3 percent to $50,825. For Americans 70-plus, the increase was 15.6 percent to $31,512. (All figures adjust for inflation and are in 2010 “constant” dollars. The “median income” is the midpoint of incomes and is often considered “typical.”)

There has been a historic shift in favor of today’s elderly. To put this in perspective, recall that many family expenses drop with age. Mortgages are paid off; work costs vanish; children leave. Recall also that incomes typically follow a “life cycle”: They start low in workers’ 20s, peak in their 50s, and then decline in retirement, as wages give way to government transfers and savings. Against these realities, the long-term gains of the elderly and losses of the young are astonishing. From 1989 to 2010, median income increased 60 percent for those aged 62 to 69 while falling 6”‰percent for those under 40 and 2”‰percent for those 40 to 61.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Health & Medicine, Medicare, Politics in General, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(WSJ) Nicholas Hahn: Is Tax Policy really the Purview of Preachers?

The bishops might have been promoting a strictly Democratic line, but U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black was more ecumenical. Amid the shutdown, Rev. Black offered a daily prayer in the Senate chamber asking God to “save us from the madness. We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness, and our pride.” Later he condemned the “hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.” His listeners in one party no doubt assumed he was talking about the other side.

It is one thing to spiritually shame politicians, as Rev. Black did. Trying to do their jobs is another. The bishops and other clergy in the Circle of Protection go well beyond their competencies when they make such policy prescriptions. Speaking about the moral issues of the day is certainly within their pastoral purview, but the bishops’ calls to raise revenues (aka taxes), for instance, or eliminate “unnecessary” military spending are not.

Bishops routinely assert their authority as “pastors and teachers,” as Bishops Blaire, Gomez and Pates did, but according to the tradition of their own church, they have no teaching authority when it comes to politics.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Medicaid, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(Pew Research) 5 facts about Social Security

2–At its root Social Security is, and always has been, an inter-generational transfer of wealth….

4–…since 2010 Social Security’s cash expenses have exceeded its cash receipts; negative cash flow last year was about $55 billion, according to the latest report from the system’s trustees. While credited interest is still more than enough to cover the deficit, that will only be true until 2020. After that, Social Security will begin redeeming its hoard of Treasuries for cash to continue paying benefits ”” as was the plan all along.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, House of Representatives, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(WSJ) Stanley Druckenmiller: How Washington Really Redistributes Income, robbing future generations

Stan Druckenmiller makes an unlikely class warrior. He’s a member of the 1%””make that the 0.001%””one of the most successful money managers of all time, and 60 years old to boot. But lately he has been touring college campuses promoting a message of income redistribution you don’t hear out of Washington. It’s how federal entitlements like Medicare and Social Security are letting Mr. Druckenmiller’s generation rip off all those doting Barack Obama voters in Generation X, Y and Z.

“I have been shocked at the reception. I had planned to only visit Bowdoin, ” his alma mater in Maine, he says. But he has since been invited to multiple campuses, and even the kids at Stanford and Berkeley have welcomed his theme of generational theft. Harlem Children’s Zone President Geoffrey Canada and former Federal Reserve Governor Kevin Warsh have joined him at stops along the tour.

Mr. Druckenmiller describes the reaction of students: “The biggest question I got was, ‘How do we start a movement?’ And my answer was ‘I’m a 60-year-old washed-up money manager. I don’t know how to start a movement. That’s your job. But we did it in Vietnam without Twitter and without Facebook and without any social media. That’s your job.’ But the enthusiasm””they get it.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Medicare, Middle Age, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology, Young Adults

(Marketwatch) U.S. debt tops $17 trillion for first time

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(FT) Analysts see US crisis deferred not solved

Standard & Poor’s is only raising half a cheer at the deal:

“We believe that to date, the shutdown has shaved at least 0.6 per cent off of annualised fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth, or taken $24bn out of the economy.

“The short turnround for politicians to negotiate some sort of lasting deal will probably weigh on consumer confidence, especially among government workers that were furloughed. If people are afraid that the government policy brinkmanship will resurface again, and with it the risk of another shutdown or worse, they’ll remain afraid to open up their cheque books. That points to another Humbug holiday season.”

Read it all (if necessary another link is there).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Medicaid, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(CSM) US debt showdown: In the eyes of the world, the damage is already done

Is the US dollar’s position as the reserve currency of the world imperiled as a result of the debt limit showdown in Washington?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

Notable and Quotable–Senator Lindsey Graham on the most recent Washington Drama and Debacle

“We took some bread crumbs and left an entire meal on the table,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “This has been a really bad two weeks for the Republican Party”–From the online version of last night’s New York Times

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(Pew Research) As Debt Limit Deadline Nears, Concern Ticks Up But Skepticism Persists

With just two days to go before an Oct. 17 deadline to raise the nation’s debt limit, 51% of the public views a rise in the nation’s debt limit as “absolutely essential” in order to avoid an Half View Debt Limit Increase as Essential, More than a Third Say it is Noteconomic crisis, while 36% think the country can go past the deadline without major problems.

Public concern over breaching the debt limit deadline has risen only slightly from a week ago, when 47% said a rise in the debt limit was essential and 39% said it was not.

Those who see no dire economic consequences resulting from going past Thursday’s deadline are not only skeptical about the timing ”“ most say there is no need to raise the debt limit at all. Nearly a quarter of all Americans (23%) ”“ including 37% of Republicans and 52% of Tea Party Republicans ”“ believe the debt limit does not need to be raised at all.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, House of Representatives, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Senate, Stock Market, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

Senate leaders could Soon announce deal to raise debt limit and reopen the govt

Looks like it will go through Jan 15, and there will be a panel create to work on deficit reduction.

One of many tweets:

”@j_strong
“It’s all over. We’ll take Senate deal” … “People are thinking about primaries, they really are”

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(WSJ) Senate Leaders Are in Striking Distance of a Deal

Top Senate leaders on Monday said they were within striking distance of a deal to sidestep a looming debt crisis and reopen the federal government two weeks after a partisan deadlock forced it to close.

Fourteen days after a partial government shutdown began, senators signaled a bipartisan resolution could come soon.

“I’m very optimistic we will reach an agreement that’s reasonable in nature this week to reopen the government, pay the nation’s bills and begin long-term negotiations to put our country on sound fiscal footing,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said on the Senate floor.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, House of Representatives, Medicaid, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The Banking System/Sector, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

Robert Hahn and Peter Passell–Mandatory health coverage could be a catalyst for a generational war

…it is still foolish to ignore the leverage that the individual mandate gives opponents of Obamacare. America’s healthcare system for the elderly (Medicare, plus Medicaid for nursing-home care) is already edging the country toward generational war because Washington will sooner or later be forced to choose between drastic limitations on coverage in those programs or drastic increases in taxes on the decreasing portion of working Americans. Now we’re adding a parallel obligation on younger workers to subsidize healthcare for fiftysomethings.

What to do? The path of least political resistance is to tough it out, hoping younger households will be unable to figure out what’s happening, or simply unwilling to throw in their lot with opponents of gay marriage, marijuana reform and the like. Alternatively, we could start paying attention to the building crisis as younger households scramble ever harder for a middle-class living standard.

And none too soon, because the signs of generational conflict are already appearing.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics in General, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology, Young Adults

(Wash. Post) Senate leaders’ talks on shutdown, debt limit stall as sides await Mkt reaction

What started as a mad dash to strike a deal to lift the federal debt limit slowed to a crawl over the weekend as stalemated Senate leaders waited nervously to see whether financial markets would plunge Monday morning and drive the other side toward compromise.

Republicans seemed to think they had more to lose. After talks broke down between President Obama and House leaders, GOP senators quickly cobbled together a plan to end the government shutdown ”” now entering its third week ”” and raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) then asked Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to elevate negotiations to the highest level.

On Sunday ”” with the Treasury Department due to exhaust its borrowing power in just four days ”” Reid was wielding that leverage to maximum advantage. Rather than making concessions that would undermine Obama’s signature health-care initiative, as Republicans first demanded, Democrats are now on the offensive and seeking to undo what has become a cherished prize for the GOP: deep agency spending cuts known as the sequester.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Federal Reserve, Globalization, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(NY Times) The Soaring Cost of a Simple Breath

Asthma ”” the most common chronic disease that affects Americans of all ages, about 40 million people ”” can usually be well controlled with drugs. But being able to afford prescription medications in the United States often requires top-notch insurance or plenty of disposable income, and time to hunt for deals and bargains.

The arsenal of medicines in the Hayeses’ kitchen helps explain why. Pulmicort, a steroid inhaler, generally retails for over $175 in the United States, while pharmacists in Britain buy the identical product for about $20 and dispense it free of charge to asthma patients. Albuterol, one of the oldest asthma medicines, typically costs $50 to $100 per inhaler in the United States, but it was less than $15 a decade ago, before it was repatented.

“The one that really blew my mind was the nasal spray,” said Robin Levi, Hannah and Abby’s mother, referring to her $80 co-payment for Rhinocort Aqua, a prescription drug that was selling for more than $250 a month in Oakland pharmacies last year but costs under $7 in Europe, where it is available over the counter.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Anthropology, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Medicaid, Medicare, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(USA Today) Senate takes control of budget talks

The Senate’s top two leaders have asserted control over budget negotiations with the White House for a deal to reopen the federal government and avoid a default on the nation’s debt.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., met Saturday morning with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to begin preliminary discussions.

“I hope that our talking is some solace to the American people and to the world,” Reid said. “This should be seen as something very positive, even though we don’t have anything done yet.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

A CBS 60 Minutes Expose on the American Disability Insurance System and the way its Gamed by Some

….the Federal Disability Insurance Program…serves nearly 12 million people — up 20 percent in the last six years — and has a budget of $135 billion. That’s more than the government spent last year on the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and the Labor Department combined. It’s been called a “secret welfare system” with it’s own “disability industrial complex,” a system ravaged by waste and fraud. A lot of people want to know what’s going on. Especially Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Tom Coburn: Go read the statute. If there’s any job in the economy you can perform, you are not eligible for disability. That’s pretty clear. So, where’d all those disabled people come from?

The Social Security Administration, which runs the disability program says the explosive surge is due to aging baby boomers and the lingering effects of a bad economy. But Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Subcommittee for Investigations — who’s also a physician — says it’s more complicated than that. Last year, his staff randomly selected hundreds of disability files and found that 25 percent of them should never have been approved — another 20 percent, he said, were highly questionable.

Read it all or better still watch the video.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Medicare, Middle Age, Personal Finance, Psychology, Social Security, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

Maine Senator Susan Collins is floating a fiscal deal proposal that MAY help find a way out

A proposal from Sen. Susan Collins is emerging as one potential way to dig lawmakers out of a government shutdown and possibly also avoid a potentially catastrophic debt default.

The moderate Maine Republican, whose vote will be essential to any fiscal deal, is circulating a rough plan to reopen the government, repeal the medical device tax and provide agencies with greater flexibility in implementing the sequester. The initial reception has been positive and may be the beginnings of a bipartisan solution to end the intractable impasse between House Republicans and Senate Democrats.

Collins said Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who are also being watched as potential GOP votes to end the fiscal standoff, have signed onto the proposal. And Collins said she has spoken to “several Democrats” about her plan, which she hopes “at least provides concepts that could be the basis for us reopening government.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology